This week, the media has been filled with the news that two popular media figures, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Pitt, are divorcing. Because they have six children, there will be child custody issues to resolve. If you are considering a divorce or are involved in one, this as an opportunity to learn some facts of this high-profile case and understand how they may help you with your own divorce and child custody issues.

Initial Facts in the Jolie-Pitt Divorce Case

Mrs. Jolie Pitt is reported to have filed the petition for divorce in California without the prior knowledge of Mr. Pitt, claiming “irreconcilable differences.” This is a common “no-fault” way to file for divorce. A no-fault divorce filing does not involve the assignment of blame for any particular action or behavior, and so it does not require a trial or showing of evidence. A public trial is something that two such well-known figures may wish to avoid, and it would likely be stressful for the children, too.

No spousal or child support payment requests have been made, although Mrs. Jolie Pitt has asked that all earnings after the date of separation remain with the individual who earned them, as well as possession of some “miscellaneous jewelry and other personal effects.” This makes sense given the financial success of both parents, and it may be an indicator of amicable relations between the divorcing parties.

Custody of the Children in the Jolie-Pitt Divorce

The divorce petition by Mrs. Jolie Pitt asks for full physical custody of the six children but with joint legal custody and visitation rights for Mr. Pitt. A request for full physical custody is common at the start of a divorce petition, and it may be regarded as “getting into position” to negotiate with Mr. Pitt regarding where the children will live. It also indicates that Mrs. Jolie Pitt most likely desires to relocate with the children.

Often, when the final settlement is made, physical custody ends up being shared between the parents. In this case, the parents are both extremely successful and more than capable of either supporting their children alone or traveling to visit regularly, no matter where in the world their jobs take them. The specifics of physical custody will likely be hammered out in the days or weeks to come.

The request for joint legal custody with visitation rights is a positive indicator that Mrs. Jolie Pitt wishes for the children to maintain a relationship with Mr. Pitt. Keeping a relationship with both parents can help children cope with all of the other life changes that a divorce brings.

Child Custody in the State of Washington

The Jolie-Pitt case is taking place in the state of California, where laws regarding divorce are a bit different than in Washington. For instance, while Washington recognizes “no fault” divorce petitions, child custody issues are handled differently.

Since 1987, Washington law refers to what’s called a parenting plan, in place of “visitation” or “custody” rights. This document is created to define several important factors, including:

  • Which parent will have physical custody rights
  • The amount of time the child will spend with either parent
  • Which parent will be the primary decision-maker for the child
  • How disagreements regarding child care will be resolved

The parents are required to work toward a mutually agreeable parenting plan and present it to a judge for approval.

If an agreement cannot be reached between the parents, the judge will hold a hearing, during which each parent can offer evidence to show the judge why a particular parenting plan is in the best interests of the child. Ultimately, the judge will weigh the facts and any evidence, then make a ruling based on what he believes is best for the child.

Divorce Can Be Complicated

Although the Jolie-Pitt case may seem amicable and relatively straightforward, there can be a lot going on behind the scenes. It’s possible that decisions are being made to minimize the stressful publicity that comes with a complicated divorce between two such public figures.

At the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny, we understand that divorce can be hard on everyone, famous or not, especially when children are involved. If you have any questions or need help regarding your own divorce or child custody situation, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. You can arrange a confidential consultation at our Bellevue offices by calling us at (425) 460-0550.


Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington
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